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Get back to nature and eat until your heart’s content

Chongming Island remains a great place for a change of pace. Regardless of the season, the scenery, wildlife, delicious food and a relaxed lifestyle all make it an ideal weekend destination due to its proximity to downtown Shanghai. Here are 10 recommended things to help get the most out of any sojourn to Chongming Island. Jiang Xinhua reports.


Strawberry heaven

The third annual Chongming Strawberry Culture Festival runs until April 30 at Holiday Island Farm in Gangxi Town.

With the berries ripe for picking, a visit to the farm allows guests to tour the greenhouse and learn how they grow organic strawberries. The fun part is picking your own to take home. Farmers say the tastiest berries are the medium-sized ones with a smooth surface.

The farm also sells strawberry jam, dried strawberries and strawberry wine.

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Bird watching at Dongtan Wetland

As the eastern-most place on the island, Dongtan Wetland Park is famous for its sunrises and hundreds of species of birds.

The wetland covers an area of 326 square kilometers and includes Chongming Dongtan Birds Nature Reserve where more than 290 species of birds can be spotted including hooded cranes, mandarin ducks and black-faced spoon-bills. Approximately 1 million migratory birds stop in the reserve every year.

The Dongtan Wetland Bird Festival continues until the end of February and includes photography and illustration competitions.

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Dishes in Zhongxing Town

Now is the high season to eat mutton, which is good for the body during winter because of its yang (warm) energy, according to traditional Chinese medicine. Mutton is also said to boost male potency. Mutton from Chongming tends to be soft and tender with a smooth texture. The braised mutton is famous as it’s simmered for several hours with homemade sauces. The blanched mutton tastes great in a special soy sauce mixed with sweet soy paste.


Narcissus at Xianghua Town

The early blooming narcissus is a popular flower for the Spring Festival due to its white petals and golden center, which symbolize luck, wealth and peace in China. The highly fragrant Chongming narcissus is jade-white with a golden center. It’s one of the country’s two most famous varieties with the other from Zhangzhou in Fujian Province. The Chongming narcissus is smaller, has a sweeter fragrance and blooms longer than the Zhangzhou variety.

Chongming narcissus is considered a local treasure with a 500-year history. The flowers are best viewed from the end of December to February. Chongming Baiye Narcissus Center in Xianghua is the best place on the island to see and learn more about these special flowers.


Hybrid rice

Chongming is famous for its high-quality hybrid rice. The variety of rice known as Han You Xiang Qing is some-what chalky but is known for its taste. It has also reached first-class national standard, according to the Shanghai Seed Control Station’s test center. The rice has been planted in Beihu, Chongming for more than 10 years and is cultivated in an area measuring about 10,720 hectares. The paddies where the rice is grown are all weeded by hand. Ducks, frogs and solar pest-killing lights are used to prevent and kill harmful insects.


Camping near Mingzhu Lake

Shanghai’s first campsite for trailers near Mingzhu Lake features 30 campers, all of which were made in the United States and are available to rent. They range in size from 18 to 22 square meters of interior space, with the largest able to accommodate up to five people.

The trailers are equipped with water, electricity, air conditioner, shower, kitchen, bedroom, WiFi and television. Each camp site has a small garden area with room for a barbecue and outdoor sports. Head on down to the lake to try fishing.

Alternatively, Dongping National For-est Park has 100 campers for rent.


Sunset at Xisha Wetland

Xisha Wetland is a renowned haven for migratory birds, water birds and rich flora and various small fauna. The wetland covers 4 square kilometers in a tidal zone and is famous for its sunsets. When the sun goes down, the reeds and grass look an intense orange and red. An elevated wooden path allows visitors to take in the scene and watch the birds and other wildlife.


Strolling at Luhua Town

As one of the most beautiful towns on Chongming Island, Luhua is known for Mingzhu lake, orange orchards and villages. Mingzhu Lake is the biggest fresh lake in Shanghai and the park around it includes more than 50 species of trees including magnolias, redwoods and gingkos. This natural scenery makes it an ideal place for a walk or bicycle ride.


Freshwater crabs

Chongming Island has a long history of breeding hairy crabs from the Yangtze River. These tasty hairy crabs are now gaining popularity in the market as they are bigger, have delicate meat and plump roe. Male crabs can weigh 200 to 250 grams and the females can weigh up to 150 grams. With a bright cyan back, white abdomen, golden claws and dense yellow hair, these crabs are seriously tasty. Baodao Crab Farm in Luhua Town serves crabs fresh from its ponds and offers guests a chance to catch their own crustaceans. There is also an exhibition about the breeding habits of the little critters and accommodation is available. Close to Xisha Wetland and Mingzhu Lake, the farm has beautiful scenery.


Chongming cakes

Chongming cakes are a famous local dessert. It is commonly stuffed with sweet red bean paste and the outside is covered with crushed walnuts, osman-thus sugar, pine nuts and melon seeds.


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